Heavy winter precipitation, melting snow packs and major spring storm systems could mean widespread flooding across the northern and Midwestern US this spring. Parts of the Ohio River Valley and New Jersey have already experienced flooding, but the National Weather Service is predicting the worst is on the way. Here are some proactive steps you can take to limit your losses should you find yourself in the path of a flood.
If you don’t have flood insurance, start the process now. Your standard homeowners policy does not cover flood damage or the pollution damage that results from a flood. And, with few exceptions, there is a 30-day waiting period from the time you apply for flood insurance and pay your premium before the policy becomes effective. You can shop for flood insurance online at this website. By the way, flood insurance is also available for renters who want to protect their belongings.
If you do have flood insurance, review your policy to make sure you’re carrying the full amount available to cover your building and its contents. The National Flood Insurance Program administered by FEMA sets limits of $250,000 on your home and $100,000 on its contents. But you can shop for supplemental flood coverage online to increase your coverage.
All the insurance in the world can’t stop a flood. But you can take some steps to limit property damage and personal injury.
- Know what your flood risk is. Any place can experience a flood, but some places are more susceptible than others. Understanding your exposure can help you prepare for it.
- Have an emergency kit. FEMA’s ReadyAmerica.gov website has a good printable checklist with basic items you’ll need.
- Have an emergency plan and practice it with family members.
- If possible, hire an electrician to relocate your electrical boxes (switches, sockets, circuit breakers and wiring) at least 12” above the base flood elevation for your area. When flooding is eminent, cut off all electrical power at the main breaker.
- Anchor your fuel tanks to walls or floors so they won’t tip over and spill contaminants. Floating fuel tanks can float away, creating a hazard to people and structures.
- If you live in a flood plain, elevate all appliances (washer, dryer, water heater, furnace, etc.) on concrete, brick blocks or pressure-treated lumber at least 12” above the projected flood elevation and anchor them with non-corrosive fasteners.
- If you have a septic system, install interior and exterior backflow valves to prevent sewage from backing up into your home.
- Install a floating floor drain plug at the lowest point of the lowest finished floor in your home to prevent floor drain pipes from backing up.
- Clear debris from drains and gutters to help direct rainwater away from your home.
- Purchase gas-powered sump pumps so you can begin to drain standing water as soon as possible.
- Keep valuable papers in a safety deposit box and keep copies at home in a secure, waterproof container.
- After a flood, as soon as it’s safe to do so, remove water-damaged items from your home and begin running pumps, ventilator fans and dehumidifiers. The faster things air out, the better the chance you can salvage them and lessen the damage from rot, mildew, rust and mold.